Franklin Countys First News

Broadband report offers options, costs to improve local Internet access

Residents listen to Brian Lippold of the James W. Sewall Company present a report on the Franklin County Broadband Initiative.

FARMINGTON - After 13 months of planning to bring faster, more reliable Internet services to the area, the Franklin County Broadband Initiative presented their findings to the public Wednesday night with consultant Brian Lippold of the James W. Sewall Company leading the discussion.

The initiative represents the combined effort of The Opportunity Center of North Franklin County, the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments, Greater Franklin Development Council, Rangeley Economic Opportunity Committee and the Sandy River Business Association. The plan was funded by money contributed by municipalities, the county government and grants through ConnectME Broadband Authority, a state board funded by federal money that seeks to improve the availability of broadband in Maine, as well as the county's Tax Increment Financing district.

More than 100 selectmen, business owners, educators and community members gathered to hear the results of months of research and proposals of possible solutions. Educators and health care providers shared with the audience specific examples of how faster internet would benefit the community such as providing rural residents with opportunities to access classes, programs and healthcare.

"Broadband is no longer a luxury, it's a necessity," Franklin Memorial Hospital Clinical Educator Tania Dawson said.

In addition to opening doors for local residents, faster speeds online relate to a number of facets of economic development, ranging from bringing in new businesses to real estate to allowing employees to telecommute with their employers.

Lippold presents the map of connectivity in Franklin County.

In order to map the current Internet options in the area, FCBI members traveled along every road in the county documenting the apparent providers based on the remote terminals installed at utility poles. The closer a home is to a terminal, the easier it is to access an Internet connection.

Lippold presented a map of Franklin County to the audience, showing the current state of connectivity, measured by megabits, as well as various potential solutions to the problem. One map showed a proposed solution to bring internet services up to a 10Mbps/1Mbps standard, while another showed how many additional terminals would be needed to get the standard up to 25Mbps/3Mbps. Two additional proposals were given, including bringing single fiber cable along 99 percent of the roads in Franklin County or extending internet through cable TV services. A hybrid solution combining the various options would also be a potential, and potentially likely, solution, according to Lippold.

The proposed solutions range in price from $70 million for fiber cable connectivity to $4 million for the slowest DSL option. Lippold told community members that the funds would primarily be sought through government and state funding, along with partnerships with potential providers. According to Lippold, local communities would most likely be responsible for roughly 20 percent of the total cost.

Moving forward, Lippold recommended meeting with potential service providers who might want to partner toward the efforts, before negotiating to find a solution. Lippold strongly encouraged continuing to discuss the initiative with the public.

An outline of the proposed budgets for potential solutions.

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27 Responses »

  1. I was looking at the map what I could of it but I looks like they are looking to put this in the north part of the country I live in New Sharon and we only have so call high speed internet in town only, plus we don't even have cable tv go to Mercer they have it go to Farmington falls they have it, talk to a fair point worker one and the so call high speed internet equipment that was suppose to go on the Starks road terminal end up up on Rangeley area for the flat landers homes pretty sad when you live in eye sight of a terminal and you only get 24 mbs but hey why sure we care as long as the flat landers have it

  2. I would love to have Broadband. But like I suspected, it will be expensive, not only for users, but for towns. I wish I could have made this meeting. I would like to have seen the actual numbers.

  3. Nancy , you can go to the GFDC site , they hope to have the report posted today . It is quite a large document. The meeting was very informative & shows that there is a lot of work yet to be done . The presentation was well done. If we are going to have any growth we need the infrastructure to entice folks to come here with their small tech dependent businesses. It will cost and take time.
    Good job Charlie!

  4. I was unable to attend the meeting, so please correct any of my assumptions below if you have more information.

    Based on the chart above, it seems like the only viable option for our region is the "100M - Hybrid," which has a total estimated cost of $34,438,469; the other options have concerns regarding their longevity/sustainability/useful life which (at least to me) automatically crosses them off the possibility list. I believe we'd be penny wise, pound foolish to invest in any of the other options, other than the "100M - Hybrid," with the concerns that are outlined on the chart above.

    With this in mind and the assumption based on the article ("According to Lippold, local communities would most likely be responsible for roughly 20 percent of the total cost"), the total estimated cost to local communities at 20% would be $688,7693.30.

    Just my opinion, but this seems like a lot of money for our towns and townsfolk to be investing in a private company. I'm at the stance where the Internet Service Providers should be absorbing the full cost of this upgrade to their systems, rather than the taxpayers footing a percentage. If the ISOs want our business that badly (benefits to them would include charging higher rates for better service), they should be investing in upgrades on their own.

    Also, didn't we (via our federal taxes) already put money into a rural broadband initiative under the Obama administration? And the Internet Service Providers didn't hold true to their word and used the money we gave them for ventures other than rural broadband internet access? Even though I think it's foolish to invest a second time, if we the people decide to, we need a way to hold their feet to the fire and ensure every taxpayer whose money gets put in for this venture is given access to broadband internet in a timely fashion.

    My two cents.

  5. Scott, thank you for mentioning it - we will be putting a link to the report up today! MBTV also did a great job recording the presentation, and once they have finished editing, we'll be putting that up on our Facebook page and website as well. The best way to stay updated while awaiting the presentation is to like our Greater Franklin Development Council Facebook page or visit the "blog" section of our website. Thanks to those of you who came out last night to listen to the presentation!

  6. It's not a money problem Spectrum made more money than Maine did last year, they have a simple requirement, 20 people per mile of road. It's a business decision not a "do it because they should" decision. Local, state and federal government can't force these companies to run miles of cable on poles they don't own. It sucks, it really does, I have a house that stops a mere 500ft from the end of Spectrum's line, there are houses in between but not enough. I don't see Spectrum changing company policy on a losing proposition.

  7. Me........you aren't happy with 24Mbps???

  8. Well said NC. I live in unorganized territories and we don't have cable available so I for one am against this. I have no problem watching movies on Netflix of video chatting family with the current setup.

  9. I currently have around 7~9 MBPS and when I go and stay out of town I use 50 MBPS service, I notice almost no difference at all.
    ( streaming sports and movies, surfing web )

  10. Just an FYI, streaming and surfing the web etc. even some games can be done on 4G networks, it’s uploading and downloading large files that take a loooong time or just can’t be done on speeds some have now.

  11. It’s like trying to drain Wilson lake with a soda straw.

  12. This represents a greater economic opportunity. The way a region grows is because it has a strong infrastructure. The chamber of commerce could use the broadband internet to attract companies to either move here, or hire Franklin County residents to be remote workers.
    I travel a fair amount for my work and every time I fly, I meet someone who used to live in Maine and is travelling back to where they now work, usually a large city like Atlanta, Chicago etc.. They all tell me the same thing. which is that Maine is a great place to live but the work opportunities are too few. They tell me that they would be able to telecommute for their current employers and live in Maine(pay high income and property taxes) but they say the lack of fast,reliable internet makes it impossible. We could recruit well paid people to move here for a better quality of life and they would be paying a lot in taxes as Maine hits taxes hard after $100K of income. The extra tax money they pay is worth it to them as the cost of living in general is much lower here than in major cities. Your real estate money goes much farther here than it does in a city.

    If Franklin County wants to try to retain its residents and even grow, then better internet is a huge piece of the pie. Ideally, the 1G option would be pursued but that price tag is unrealistic for a small rural county. The 100M option seems to make the most sense to me and maybe some additional grant money can be found to help cover the initial cost. and the ISPs should definitely pay their share as they ultimately benefit in the form of subscribers.

  13. Thank you " Pure " for clarifying. I was commenting more towards " me " and " WiltonGal ". Most of the issues with internet services to the average home user is exactly like you say, when files and updates come in to our devices ( even when we don't realize it, along with " cloud " type systems ) it causes streaming problems.
    There really is a huge difference between " home use " and business applications.
    Nice analogy too!

  14. I think some of you responding are probably not ones that should be concerned. 7-9 Mb? Come to Sand Pond Road in Chesterville where the MAX Fairpoint offers is 760 K. You can't even stream music reliably. We'd say our prayers were answered if we could stream movies reliably!

    So instead, we pay $100 a month for Hughesnet, which is faster, but we can only stream 6 or 7 movies a month before we've used all our quota. And, because it's satellite based, there are still tons of bufferering issues. Especially with Netflix.

    If Spectrum or someone could offer us 2 or 4 Mb without quotas for $100, we'd be happy campers!

    I think someone mentioned it, and I'll second it. It's not our responsibility to pay companies to invest in their infrastructure. They should be investing in servicing us. And we, as a community, should also have the option to pressure these companies to provide services to all of us, not just those that are easy, if they want to continue doing business here.

    If Fairpoint had gotten off their butts 5years ago when they first added DSL to our area, there are a dozen or more homes just on my road that would be paying a lot more for faster service. Instead, we are all dropping our services from Fairpoint because it is not a viable solution.

  15. billyjoebob
    February 1, 2018 • 3:43 pm
    Thank you " Pure " for clarifying. I was commenting more towards " me " and " WiltonGal ". Most of the issues with internet services to the average home user is exactly like you say, when files and updates come in to our devices ( even when we don't realize it, along with " cloud " type systems ) it causes streaming problems.
    There really is a huge difference between " home use " and business applications.
    Nice analogy too!

    Exactly, when in doubt run a speed test and then turn off your WiFi router and plug an Ethernet cable directly into your modem then run another speed test. A lot of issues come from the wireless networks and not the connection to your isp. The modem itself can cause issues and does need reset from time to time also the cables and connections coming into your house can be compromised as well.

    My advice to all is just run speed tests from time to time and make sure you are getting what your paying for which will ensure your modem, router and cables/connections are all good. Also keeping in mind the more things on your network running the slower your speeds will be, (multiple computers, TVs, phones, etc...) and some ISPs will slow down during peak use times too.

    I do agree with all that paying for any of this with taxpayer dollars is not a good solution, the ISPs will make money off this for the rest of eternity while taxpayers will be paying for it just as long. They will eventually want the market share and someone will run lines but it will be a long time and longer if state and local governments elsewhere keep paying for their infrastructure for the companies.

  16. I’m streaming video comfortably at 5mb. Walk before you run. $34 million for 100mb is absolutely stupid! After all, this is Franklin county, not Wall Street!

  17. Captain Planet, we may not be on Wall Street but for people like me who earn a living using the internet (I translate for international companies, and one of my main clients is on Water Street very close to the said Wall Street ), sending and receiving large files is often extremely slow and frequently impedes my work flow considerably. If businesses are to be attracted to the area, they need a hassle-free internet experience.

  18. It would be great to hear more from both sides of this matter. It seems more folks agree we need something better than it is now.

  19. Cumberland County taxpayers could subsidize the very small percentage of users that need more than 10 mb; Franklin is not so fortunate. Every household and business needs access to reasonable speed, very few need lightening fast. While we would all love 1000mb, some of us still worry about paying the bills. This bubble in the economy won’t last forever.

  20. I am concerned about the cost to INDIVIDUALS. If businesses want to spend $2-3-400 a month, fine. But people who use the internet, but don't have a lot of money to throw away on crazy monthly costs are going to lose out on this. And that's the original purpose, isn't it? To provide Broadband to rural communities at an affordable cost.

  21. "The proposed solutions range in price from $70 million for fiber cable connectivity to $4 million for the slowest DSL option. Lippold told community members that the funds would primarily be sought through government and state funding," One thing that always amazes me is when we praise businesses for being run by deserving successful people who deserve enormous pay but they need public money to run their so called successful business. Meanwhile the small business people like myself invest my own profits in my business to expand and grow. I want 70 million dollars of your money so I can provide more services to you and charge more. That's what this sounds like to me. Come on Sewall, you want to provide faster internet then invest your money and you will make it back tenfold in the long run. Using taxpayer dollars and to charge taxpayers is double dipping 70million!

  22. Please consider: Every bit of infrastructure we have provides building blocks for personal and business growth.

    Fact find as quickly as you can, weigh the options, and go for it. we are a rural area, needing additional resources for our personal and local economy. How much can we afford? How much will it cost? Lets find out!

    Should some of the TIF money from the Wind Farms and/or additional tax money be invested in infrastructure for the next 100 years? To benefit the entire county? Let's find out, and not just say "NO"

    Internet bandwidth is a valuable resource when you have enough, and a barrier when you do not.

  23. Investing in public infrastructure with public money, I understand that. With public money we should build roads, improve public buildings, support public services such as police and schools why should public money that I have no choice in giving go to support a private corporation that provides services that I would then have to pay for? Building a privately owned business should not be funded by the public. Add the future of internet services without net neutrality and who wins and who loses? There is much to preserve in this area that has nothing to do with the internet or gentrifying the community by attracting more wealthy individuals and businesses from away who will overall increase the needs and cost of the community. If you make money using the internet I can bet that you will also pay the price for better service and be able to write it off as a business expense with or without this public donation to a private industry. Just my opinion. I want to clarify that I live in a rural community for a reason and I don't see why the taxes taken form my paycheck should fund private businesses that already have so much. No one was offering me free public money when I ran a business, it was called hard work and personal investment.

  24. I steam nicely after a six pack.I don't own a cell phone because I had the foresight to have a telephone installed in my home eliminating the need to carry one in my pocket.If the sat comgrid ever goes out there will be about 280 million folks in the U.S.that will be completely and utterly helpless.

  25. Actually I meant stream. I have little idea of most of the items in this story.I have a broad band in my fedora but nowhere else. I am mystified at people who spend 16 hours a day assuming the posture of a boiled shrimp,staring unblinking at a small Chinese made screen,flailing madly with their thumbs. Especially kids. Oh the childhood memories they'll have as well as social skills!

  26. Are we even serious about spending this kind of money. It wasn't all that long ago we were quibbling over actual pennies on a school budget. Which to me is far more important then watching movies

  27. When K~12 homework can only be done via fiber optic supplied internet it will then become mandated. By then the cost will have doubled.
    Why don't we have the large companies that want to plant large solar fields for out of state supply pay for it?

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